Supreme Court to states on Cow vigilantism: Compensate cow violence victims, punish violators
The Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud expressed concern that only five states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Karnataka ,the first four ruled by the BJP and the last by the Congress ,have filed the status reports. Supreme Court asked top officials to apprise it of steps taken to deal with cow vigilante groups in 22 states.
SC then asked the chief secretaries for the remaining 22 states to file compliance reports by October 13 and fixed PILs, including one filed by Tushar Gandhi, the great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi on the issue, for hearing on October 31. The bench insisted that law and order was a primary concern of the court and sought reports from states where mob violence were recently reported. Reiterating that instances of violence would not be tolerated.
The Supreme Court, on September 6, had directed all 29 states and seven union territories (UTs) to take steps to stop violence in the name of cow protection and asked them to appoint a senior police officer as the nodal officer in every district within a week to check such vigilante groups and file compliance reports in pursuance of its order.
‘Victims of crime, including people killed by cow vigilante groups, were entitled to financial compensation from the government. States are obligated to frame a scheme and compensate victims who were lynched in the name of cow vigilantism’ , said a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra in reponse to advocate Indira Jaising’s plea for a judicial order for paying compensation to the family of 15-year-old Junaid who was killed in a train near Delhi on June 23.
The observation came when Senior Advocate Indira Jaising submitted that victims were not getting the compensation due to them. “The payment of compensation should have been an automatic process,” Jaising said. Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal said the family of the dead victims were being harassed and counter FIRs were being filed against them.
While hearing a petition by Congressman Tehseen S Poonawalla and activist Tushar Gandhi who sought direction to states to check cow vigilantism, said that states cannot “wash off their hands”
On April 7, the apex court had issued a notice on Poonawala’s petition which had contended that there were several instances in the recent past where the cow protection groups had taken matters in their own hands and resorted to violence on Dalits, minorities and other people in the “name of protection of cow and other bovine species.”
“Menace caused by the so called Cow Protection Groups is spreading fast to every nook and corner of the Country and is creating disharmony among various communities and castes,” Poonawala contended. The activist sought three issues to be addressed that included disbandment of the vigilante groups, filtering of social media content uploaded by the cow protection groups and to strike down laws or provisions that protected the protection groups.
.The petition also demanded that related clauses of the Gujarat Animal Prevention Act, 1954, the Maharashtra Animal Prevention Act, 1976, and the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act, 1964, be declared “unconstitutional”.
The Supreme Court also said that states were under obligation to compensate victims of violence by cow vigilante groups even without any judicial order.
Apart from this, the apex court had also asked the states to make sure that highways are patrolled with efficiency as such incidents took place on highways on the pretext that vehicles are carrying beef.
Cow vigilante violence involving mob attacks in the name of “ cow protection” ,has swelled since 2014 in India. Cattle slaughter is banned in most states of India,Recently emerged cow vigilante groups, claiming to be protecting cattle, have accused some Indian Muslims and Dalits of cattle theft or slaughter, and targeted violence against them, leading to a number of deaths. Cow-protection groups see themselves as preventing theft, protecting the cow or upholding the law in an Indian state which bans cow slaughter.